Project 2019 Keelamudiman India  

Keelamudiman is a village where most of the socially oppressed and untouchables live. They have been living there for centuries. Surprisingly there is no education given to the young girls in the village. They have been denied this right because of their own poverty and the social conditions. If at all they get into education, they become dropouts for various reasons.

We are familiar with the term “caste” and most of the people have experienced “caste discrimination” from one end or the other, as discriminators or as the discriminated.

Only the upper cast students can go to the government schools. All others cannot due to the existing social structures. In this system, these oppressed youths cannot go to the same schools where the upper caste students study. Even if they get in, they are not treated equally. They are asked to sit on the floor. They cannot mingle with the other cast students freely. They cannot have friends with any one of them. The upper cast students very often treat them inhumanly. Hence, most of the students don’t go there at all.

Socially they are outcasts. Economically they are worse than slaves. Religiously they are denied entrance to places we call “houses of God”. They are denied the use, of public roads, public schools, public hospitals, public wells, public taps, public parks and the like. In some cases their approach within the measured distance is a social crime, and in some other rare enough cases their very sight is an offence. Their residence is relegated to the ghettos of villages called “colonies” where they practically get no social service.

 

Economic Background

As the parents of these children live in a village they depend upon other people to employ them in their fields and agriculture is their main source of income. They get employment in the fields for six months of the year and for the remaining six months, they go to some other towns and villages in search of jobs. This migration results in family separation. What starts as a short term separation ends in a long and permanent one. The children at home are not taken care of and left to themselves.

Generally, these families have many children as many as 5 to 7. Parents believe that these children when they grow up will go to work and earn more money for the maintenance of the family. This is of course only a false hope which results in more poverty.

This affects the general income of the families and education of their girls is the first casualty.

Every year a minimum of five families commit suicide in this part of Keelamudiman due to severe drought and continuous failure of monsoon rains.  Due to lack of water for agricultural works, people engage themselves in all sort of illegal and unlawful work, which will fetch easy money for them. The worst is that children under the age of 15 are engaged in child labour to get more money.

 

St. Joseph's Higher Secondary School is situated in Keelamudimun mission parish in the diocese of Tuticorin. It is 36 kilometres north-west of Tuticorin, a port town in Southern India. This school was taken over by the De Lasalle Brothers from the Diocese in June 2001 to animate and develop this most backward area. Seventy five per cent of the total population are Dalits who are poor and uneducated and discriminated against by caste - minded people. This school caters to the educational needs of twenty villages around Keelamudimun. Because of this school, many of them are able to continue their secondary education.

The school educates 721 poor and disadvantaged students (410 boys & 311 girls) from the village of Keelamudiman and the surrounding area. . The school also offers vocational training programs for women and La Salle Vidiyal hostel provides accommodation and access to education for 218 boys, the majority Hindu, and the girls’ hostel caters for 132 girls. Literacy in the area is only 27%, compared to the national average of 79.9%. St Joseph Higher Secondary School has set a target to reach 75% literacy in the area. The school has a citrus farm that helps generate funds for the school.

Bro. Victor is the Principal/Head of the De La Salle School in Keelamudiman. Br Jerry is the Director of the community. Three other Brothers live and teach in the school. There are some dedicated and sincere staff members in the school and they will be instrumental in executing the project.

In 2013 LDWP Ireland built a new section onto the school which included much needed classrooms.

Our project this year is the expansion of the facilities in the school. The building project will roughly equate to building 14 new classrooms. As this is a vast rural area our project will comprise building new accommodation for students so that they can stay in the school during each school term. There is a dilapidated building there at the moment where some students live but is not fit for human habitation. Many potential students live too far from the school and have no means of transport. Hence they are not being educated.  

 

The building project started in 2018 will be completed this year. A proper kitchen with proper cooking facilities for cooking food for the huge number of students needs will be completed. The kitchen currently comprises a dirty hut where the food is kept and all cooking takes place outside. The canteen/dining hall which will accommodate over 300 students will double as a study facility and can also be used to hold examinations, especially the state examinations will be completed. Currently many students have to study outside in the school grounds in the evening where they have to cope with heat and dust during the hot dry season and rain during the monsoon season. A second floor will be added to the first floor that we completed last year. This can be used for accommodation purposes and also the addition of new classrooms as required.

A store room will be built. Drinking water will also be provided as will washing facilities.

 

It is hoped that this project will be completed this July/August.

This project welcomes people who want to be part of a group of volunteers from the District of Ireland, Great Britain & Malta based in the local school in the village of Keelamudiman. Volunteer activities involve physical work in the construction of the project and the provision of proper facilities for the local children. Opportunities for teaching abound. One can teach any age group up to age fifteen. Volunteers can use their vast array of talents whether they are in the musical, artistic, sporting or drama areas. This short term volunteer project offers an authentic, cultural and meaningful experience to people with limited time. The project also includes exciting and varied cultural excursions and learning experiences. Many volunteers decide to travel further in India after the completion of the necessary time on the project.

 

If you are interested in volunteering in Southern India this summer and you want to find out more about the project contact Tom O'Neill, email thomasjoneill50@mail.com

© 2019 by ALL I.T